Opened in 1885, comprising a beer garden, restaurant, a grand hall and smaller rooms for public or private meetings, the Bürgerbräukeller was one of the largest public establishments of the brewer Bürgerliches Brauhaus and later of Löwenbräu following a company merger in 1921.
The venue was a popular meeting place for Nazi leaders and it was there that Adolf Hilter took his first step to dictatorial power. [see below] The Bürgerbräukeller became the favoured venue for the annual Nazi reunion of the 'old fighters' commemorating the failed Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923. The address by the party leader on the evening of November 8 was followed the next day by the march to the Felderrnhalle. However, Elser's bomb attack on November 8, 1939, caused considerable damage to the grand hall and the annual Nazi rally was held a different venue in Munich between 1940 and 1944.
When American forces entered Munich on April 30, 1945, the 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Infantry Division found the building piled with Nazi Party records but otherwise unused and relatively undamaged by Allied bombing. From late 1945, the Bürgerbräukeller served as an American Red Cross Club and became a Special Services club in September 1947. With the departure of American forces in 1957, the Bürgerbräukeller was taken over by Lowenbrau, and after partial rebuilding, was reopened in December 1958.
In preparation for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the construction of an underground railway with station escalators emerging on Rosenheimerstrasse required a room in the cellar, once thought to be used for Nazi Party meetings, to be sealed off. The great hall was still available for large gatherings until demolished in 1979 for commercial redevelopment of the site, that included the Munich Hilton.
Exciled Nazi Otto Strasser described the beginnings of the failed Beer Hall Putsch in HITLER AND I, first published in 1940:
The conspirators [Hitler, Goering, Roehm, Gregor Strasser, Hess, Streicher, Frick and possibly Himmler], met every evening in the private rooms of the Burgerbrau [Bürgerbräukeller], a Munich brasserie and restaurant, which also had a big hall for public meetings.
Hitler therefore decided to force their hand. The date of the putsch was originally fixed for the 10th and 11th of November, . But at the last moment, learning that von Kahr was holding a meeting at the Bürgerbräukeller at which he was to make a speech on the programme of the Bavarian Monarchists, Hitler altered the date. November 8 was solemnly fixed as the historic date of the German Revolution.
Hitler's instinct ought to have told him that it would have been better to have left these aged servants of a decrepit regime out of it. Both Kahr, Lossow and Seisser had served under the Kaiser. In spite of incessant discussions, which dragged on for week after week, no serious steps had yet been taken by Hermann Goering. But Hitler wanted action, and with a handful of followers proposed taking the risk of compromising the great German national revolution forever.
Hitler had six hundred men. Gregor Strasser, warned late, assembled three hundred and fifty stormtroopers at Landshut and led them to Munich. General Ludendorff, who had not been kept informed of what was going on, was at Ludwigshohe, where a motorcar was hurriedly sent to fetch him.
On the fatal day Adolf wore a frock-coat, on which he pinned his Iron Cross. He proposed bursting into the hall at the head of his men while paramilitary detachments surrounded the building, whereupon von Kahr, before even beginning his speech, would be forced to surrender to the insistence of the heavily armed putschists. 'He cannot help joining us,' Hitler said to Scheubner-Richter, whose mission it was to fetch General Ludendorff to Munich. 'Once Kahr is persuaded the others will follow.'
Strong in this conviction, Adolf gravely got into the car that took him to the Bürgerbräukeller. At the entrance the young fanatic with the Iron Cross kept asking to speak to Governor Kahr, but the dense crowd refused to let him pass. He was pale and trembling, and looked like a madman. Inside the hall the meeting had already begun and von Kahr had started his speech.
Hitler hesitated, but it was too late to go back. He listened, and could hear the steps of his faithful shock-troops. 'Clear the vestibule!' he ordered the policeman on duty at the entrance. Impressed by the Iron Cross, the policeman obeyed. A few minutes later the stormtroopers marched in. Adolf waited for them with his eyes closed and his hands in his pockets, where there was a revolver. He felt the eyes of his young men upon him, but he had not yet decided what to do if his coup failed and the triumvirate refused to march with him.
Like a maniac he burst into the hall, where three thousand Bavarians, seated before their beer-mugs, were listening to the unctuous oratory of von Kahr. Adolf jumped on to a chair, fired his revolver at the ceiling, and shouted, his hoarse voice half-quenched with excitement:
'The National Revolution has begun!'
Nazis assembling in the beer garden for the annual march.
Hitler addressing the 'old fighters' of the failed Beer Hall Putsch on November 8, 1939
The intensive forensic investigation following the bombing was pictured in the Illustrierter Beobachter, the magazine of the Nazi Party. NOTE: The twisted steel structure and demolished reinforced concrete floors indicate the massive size of the explosive device.
The main entry was on Rosenheimerstrasse
Postcard circa 1935
Frames from a short Nazi propaganda film following the Munich 'bomb outrage' at the Bürgerbräukeller.
Reconstruction of the 'infernal machine' by Elser while he was being held in Berlin demonstrated he had the technical knowledge and skill to build the device unaided.
Nazi rally poster-1939
Liberating American troops arriving at the Bürgerbräukeller in 1945
Bürgerbräukeller being used as a basketball court and as a radio station by the American military in post-war years.
Propping the fallen ceiling following the bombing of the Bürgerbräukeller on November 8, 1939.
All that remains of the Bürgerbräukeller is a brass plague said to be located at the base of the pillar inwhich Elser installed his bomb.
A 1928 Munich map showing the location of the Bürgerbräukeller.
1904 map showing Bürgerbräukeller
Plague is centred on the new development